PONCA, Ark. (KNWA) — The Buffalo River Zip Line Canopy Tour brought a spectacular way of seeing nature to Arkansas.
The Zip Line Canopy Tour has been giving Ponca-area visitors a treetop-high look at Buffalo River country for nine years.
“We were the first canopy tour in the State of Arkansas,” said Jeremy Wilson, canopy tour manager.
The canopy tour is made up of a series of zip lines.
“This is kind of a Costa Rican style canopy tour,” Wilson said.
Patrons are secured into a harness that is connected to a zip line by a pulley. They are in a seated position as they descend down a succession of zip lines.
“The first one is the tallest one. We leave from a [man-made] platform standing 60 feet above the ground. The rest are 35 feet above the ground,” Wilson said.
The canopy tour’s owner created the tour after he saw zip line tours done in other countries. He wanted to bring the experience to Arkansas, according to Wilson.
“The canopy tour industry started in the mid-90s in Costa Rica. It has been a very profitable tourism industry,” Wilson said.
There is plenty of vibrant nature and gorgeous scenery to experience in the Buffalo River area by simply taking a hike or going for a stroll, but the zip lines give experiencing the area a whole new twist.
“Romantically, I think [the owner] Mike would say it’s another way to experience Buffalo River country,” Wilson said. “If you’ve floated the river or went on the hiking trails, this is another adventure to get into while you’re in Ponca.”
The zip line is designed for people between 70 and 250 pounds. Maintenance and safety checks are routinely performed on the pulleys, zip lines and harnesses, according to Wilson.
“We follow industry standards. Those are set by the ACCT – Association for Challenge Course Technologies,” Wilson said. “They make the standards and keep updating the standards to make sure everyone is conforming to safe operating procedures.”
A third party, Challenge Quest Designs, and state inspectors perform annual inspections on the equipment, and staff members inspect the equipment daily, according to Wilson.
Also, an arborist is brought in to inspect the trees that the zip lines are connected to.
“He tells us the health of the trees. He’s real good about telling us if a tree needs to be cut down and if we need to reroute our course,” Wilson said.
All the trees that connect the tour are hardwoods.
“We wouldn’t want to construct a platform from a softwood,” Wilson said. “They’re all Oaks and Hickory trees.”
The canopy tour attracts about 2,000 customers a year.
The tours run nine months a year, from March until the end of November.
Each season gives the tour its own special feel, Wilson said.
“We operate on reservations or walk-ins, but reservations are preferred, especially on the weekends,” Wilson said.
Click here for more information on how you can experience a canopy tour.